Competitive analyses help you evaluate your competition’s strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand. When it comes to digital marketing and SEO, however, there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider that can be hard to know where to begin. Which is why my colleague, Ben Estes, created a competitive analysis checklist (not dissimilar to his wildly popular technical audit checklist) that I’ve souped up for the Moz community.
Keyword gap analysis is the process of determining which keywords your competitors rank well for that your own website does not. From there, we reverse-engineer why the competition is ranking well and then look at how we can also rank for those keywords. Often, it could be reworking metadata, adjusting site architecture, revamping an existing piece of content, creating a brand-new piece of content specific to a theme of keywords, or building links to your content containing these desirable keywords.
It's important to note your competitor's actions over time. For example, if one of your competitors is consistent with pricing, product features, promotion, and their market share it may mean that they're not exploring or exploiting additional market opportunities. Or, if one of your competitors has a decline in sales volume it may mean they will be employing new marketing strategies in the near future and should be monitored closely. Identify the Competitions Strengths and Weaknesses In order to develop effective competitive strategies, you need to make a realistic assessment of your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, as viewed by the market. You need to ask yourself what each of your competitors do very well, better than your own company? Then, ask yourself in what areas are each of your competitors weak. Construct a simple chart. The copier company's might appear like this: Strengths and Weaknesses of Competitors Competitor: Strengths Weaknesses A. Superior customer service 3-year warranty Higher price B. Quick innovator Unique features Higher price Limited distribution channels C. Large market share Lower price Comprehensive ad campaign Viewed as market leader by market segment Slower product No direct access to parts Other Factors to Consider
The answers remain to be seen, but there’s one no brainer in all of this; one best practice that can dictate any brand’s choices around location-based marketing: ask your users. Explain why you want to target them, tell them how you plan to use their data, and make some commitments about how you won’t use it. Ask for feedback via quick polls, or consider doing some market research on your audience. See what your users most want. Then respect that.
Make a list of product features and benefits in order of importance, and prepare a table to show whether or not each of your competitors fulfill them.For example, Medium-sized companies that purchase copier machines may look for the following product benefits and features when making buying decisions: Competing Company: A B C D Features: 1. Auto paper feed 2. Auto enlarge or reduce 3. Collates 4. Staples 5. 24 Hour Repair Service 6. Warranty Benefits: 1. Easy to operate 2. Saves money 3. Good print quality 4. Dependable 5. Fast Price: $ Other factors you may want to evaluate include:
Annual ReportsIf your competitor is a publicly-held company, many of its reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are available on the SEC-Edgar Web site. Annual reports provide financial information, including sales volume, revenue increases, and their total market share. 10-K reports provide still more detail, and are supplemented by the quarterly 10-Qs. 8-Ks show significant events such as acquisitions and board membership changes when they occur between 10-K and 10-Q filings. Annual reports from privately-held corporations are sometimes available through friends, relatives, and business acquaintances who own stock in a competitor's company.
There is a “home” for newly published content. A hub for new content can be the site’s blog, or a news section. For instance, Distilled’s “home for newly published content” is the Resources section. While this line item may seem like a binary (score of “0” if you don’t have a dedicated section for new content, or score of “2” if you do), there are nuances that can bring each brand’s score up or down. For example:
You can use this tool to get new ideas for paid search campaigns as well as ideas to drive organic traffic. One big advantage of the tool is it gives you historical statistics on past search volume, as well as predictions about the number of clicks and conversions. You can search for keyword ideas based on what makes sense for your products, services or other phrases you're trying to target.
Use the Keyword Planner to flag any terms on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume, and don't help you maintain a healthy mix like we talked about above. But before you delete anything, check out their trend history and projections in Google Trends. You can see whether, say, some low-volume terms might actually be something you should invest in now -- and reap the benefits for later.
Trade AssociationsMost professional trade associations compile and publish industry statistics and report on industry news and leaders through trade association magazines and newsletters. Most trade associations also sponsor trade shows and other professional meetings. This is an opportunity to see first-hand what your competition is producing. It also provides the opportunity to discover new players who may soon become your competition.
It is a common misconception that sprinkling your chosen keyword randomly throughout your site is enough to improve SEO for B2B marketing. Unfortunately, doing so can actually result in a serious loss of business. Creating a strong keyword strategy is one of the most important things you can do to improve SEO. It is equally important to know how to do it right, as well as understand why it’s so necessary. This post will explain why a keyword strategy is important for SEO and B2B marketing, as well as explain how to create one that will draw in business.
IT is more cost-effective to target already existing demand to increase your market share for more qualified leads. For more tips on how to prioritize your keyword strategy and your comprehensive search campaigns, check out Directive’s Complete Guide to B2B Marketing and Demand Generation. And be sure to subscribe to our blog for weekly updates on the most innovative industry-leading tactics!
Use Google Keyword Planner and your list of potential search ideas to create a list of terms/phrases that align with your brand and that, ideally, aren’t highly competitive. Google ranks competitiveness in Keyword Planner, seen above. You can also get an idea of how competitive a keyword search is by looking at the price of the suggested Adwords bid. Competitive search terms are typically much harder to rank for.
The first part of your competitive analysis only requires basic research. You’ll just be looking up and making note of easy-to-find facts about your competitor’s business. For this part, you’ll need to have some idea about who your small business competitors are, where to find their website and social media pages, and perhaps have access to their offline marketing materials such as brochures, ads, and posters.
For this reason, some companies have taken a more direct measurement approach to IP geolocation vs. trying to infer it through ping triangulation. It’s far more straightforward, but requires a lot more manual effort. Basically, these companies send cars out to drive up and down every street in the country and log WiFi IP addresses as well as their physical location to populate the same table that more traditional geolocation companies build through technical means. Google and Skyhook both use this approach.
More importantly, take the time as you conduct your keyword research to segment and categorize your keywords to map to the right landing pages. If the page doesn’t exist on your site yet, then that is your cue to build a new page for that set of keywords. By doing this you will achieve the relevance that will lead to more engaged visitors and higher conversion rates.
Once you have determined which keywords you should focus on, use them repeatedly in your content. Use an Excel sheet to keep an organized eye on your usage by tracking how many times you use each of your selected terms in your content. Why? The latest Google algorithm update is penalizing pages whose anchor text is over-optimized, and having an updated list of the terms you have already used will help you to vary them smartly.
Google is constantly refining and adding new tools to AdWords, so remaining active with your PPC strategies is critical if you want to beat out your competition. There’s never a set-it-and-forget-it approach that you can take–as much as one might wish–so it’s important that you test, analyze, re-test, and repeat to find out what is working for you and what is not. Also, keep in mind that while some strategies might work wonders for a particular business or industry, they may not be as effective with yours. Experiment with different approaches, but don’t be too quick to abandon ones that don’t show immediate results. Some investments require time to show their return.
GREAT suggestions, Nicholas! I've definitely customized this checklist for clients' various needs too (some care about having an "email signup form" as something to check, while others are international and we'd need to make sure their href lang tags were correct). Please keep the recs coming–this checklist will only get better as we make it work for different scenarios :)
It's wonderful to deal with keywords that have 5,000 searches a day, or even 500 searches a day, but in reality, these popular search terms actually make up less than 30% of the searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% lie in what's called the "long tail" of search. The long tail contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day, but, when taken together, comprise the majority of the world's search volume.
Below, you can find our suggested stages for implementing your keyword strategy, specifically if you are trying to get a newer business with a branded service / product to rank higher in an industry with competitors who have already established a presence in the main search engines. We leave it up to you to decide when it is best to move to each stage. In our opinion, what works for SMEs that need to boost their presence on the web is to develop a keyword strategy that starts out general, without worrying too much about competitors. This strategy can then evolve over time to include more and more branded keywords as well as aiming for some SERPs of better-known competitors.
This emphasis on competition is related to the advent of game theory in the mid 20th century around the same time. The problem is that game theory is one mental model of many to help make decisions, not the only one (Ben Thompson from Stratechery has a good post on the Prisoner’s Dilemma that is a fundamental one). Even researchers are starting to point to the fact that there are no perfect solutions (such as a Nash equilibrium) to most situations.
AdWords may suggest keywords based on your website content. Feel free to use them for inspiration, but also consider the many different ways you and your customers talk about your business and be sure those turns of phrase are reflected in your keywords. Start by creating a list of about 10 “head terms”—the concepts from which everything else you do follows.
"My favorite part about voice search is just how clear the intent is in the query. For example, if I typed in 'hotels in the Bahamas', you’d have no idea whether I was looking for a romantic getaway, a singles trip or a family vacation. Chances are the results would be different for each. But if I asked Cortana, 'which are the best family-friendly hotels in the Bahamas,' then a far more targeted result could be served.
This data gives us a starting point to build out complex keyword mapping strategy documents that set the tone for our client campaigns. Rather than just starting keyword research by guessing what we think is relevant, we have hundreds of keywords to start with that we know are relevant to the industry. Our keyword research process then aims to dive deeper into these topics to determine the type of content needed to rank well.